What are your rules about rules?


Jenny spied one artist’s rules written on a scrap of wall

The building was filled with art, but these rules scrawled on a broken piece of sheetrock were the thing that caught my eye: Don’t waste time. Stop doubting your capabilities. Make something every day.

They seemed like good rules for a year of submission.

I was touring the studios of graduate art students at The University of South Carolina when I saw them. The rules were in the work space belonging to a young woman who was assembling a huge collage of hundreds of small photos, a work that told some kind of story, I’m sure.

photo collage

This USC graduate art student is assembling her photos into some sort of sophisticated collage

To make the piece, she not only photographed the scenes but also mounted the photos on blocks of wood that she’d sanded and painted. I overheard her say how tired she was of burnishing.

I’m assuming these are her rules. Despite the overwhelming amount of work required, she appeared to be getting her huge project done.  The images were intriguing. I would love to see it when it’s completed.  I admire her determination.

But much as I want to 1) Have a plan, 2) Stop doubting, 3) Make something every day–as soon as I make rules, the rebel in me rises up. I don’t like rules.

But I do like a lark, a joke, a project, a dare. And I do think how you package something counts. (We can blame that on too much time spent working in advertising.)  So it makes me think that our Year of Submission is just rules (or a rule) disguised as something else.

Let’s be sure not to tell me.

I wonder how other people feel about rules and getting work done. Do they help? Or something else?

From Venice to Memphis: Headed in the right direction?

Venice Caroline

Text from Caroline: “Took a photo of my short story in Venice. Didn’t work on it once!” Hey, at least she TOOK her short story to Italy.

Like most other people, both Caroline and I have work to do, places to be–a dozen reasons every day not to write and submit. The past week was a good test for both of us.  Caroline had enrolled in a photography class and was headed to Venice (Italy) for the week.

Here’s Caroline on confession cam while living it up in Venice:

Dyers Memphis

Jenny conducting important research on the “ageless grease” of Dyer’s in Memphis.

Meanwhile, I was teaching a public speaking class in Memphis (Tennessee) and eating as much as possible, adding up to two long days of training plus two long days of snow-socked travel (and several very good meals).

How did we do despite the distractions?  Better than we expected.

Caroline got a crash course in using Instagram as a storytelling medium with one of the most successful “grammas” out there–and she took her short story along for the trip. (You can see some of Caroline’s great photos here.)

I continued to develop a character for a new story through a comics writing and drawing class I’m taking, and I used my travel time to re-read and edit both a play and a humorous book I’d written a couple of years ago.

Leading to this week:

  • Caroline is getting feedback today at 1:00 on her novel, from an editor she’s been working with off and on for the last year. More on that to come.
  • I’ve sent my play to an actor/director for reading and input. I’m editing the book today and doing research to submit it to some agents/publishers in the next week.

Proving, at least to ourselves, that it’s possible to keep moving toward our goal for the year, no matter how deliciously greasy the distractions might be.

manuscript at Drip

Taken at our status update meeting, Jan 28, at Drip Coffee in Columbia, SC. (Appears someone wears that slouchy sweater far too often. Meanwhile, someone else was wearing an adorable sweater from Venice. Where’s the pic of that?)